Tall people seem to have it made. Not only do they tend to be healthier, smarter and more successful than their vertically challenged counterparts, but they also live longer. The problem? New research shows Americans are shrinking.
In an effort to understand the factors that impact human height—and how it may be connected to our health—experts analyzed close to 1,500 studies involving more than 18 million people worldwide. What they discovered was that “…over the past century adult height has changed substantially and unevenly in the world’s countries.” And in America, the change is telling.
Once ranked among the tallest men and women in the world, U.S. adults have gotten shorter and shorter over the last 100 years or so. In terms of numbers, American women have dropped to 37th place out of the roughly 200 countries surveyed and American men now come in at 42nd place. Why does it matter?
As the median height in the United States decreased over the course of the study period, something else happened: the average weight skyrocketed. Today, more than a third of all American adults—over 78 million people—are now considered obese, and researchers believe the changes have a lot to do with a decline in overall nutrition.
According to the study authors, “There is a need to better understand why height has changed in different countries by different amounts, and use this information to improve nutrition and health across the world.” They hope that this study and others like will bring them closer to that goal.